Category Archives: Insurance

Obamacare enrollment climbs in Kitsap

county-enrollment
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About 300 more Kitsap residents were covered by health care plans purchased through the state’s exchange this year than in 2015, according to a report released earlier this month.

An additional 2,000 residents enrolled in the state’s expanded Apple Health (Medicaid) program over the same period.

As of September, the county was home to 5,206 residents covered by Qualified Health Plans and 43,936 covered by Apple Health.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange reported a more substantial jump in enrollment statewide.

The number of Washingtonians covered by Qualified Health Plans climbed by 13,581 in 2016, a 9 percent increase.

Enrollment is currently open for 2017 exchange plans. Customers who want their coverage to activate in January must enroll by Dec. 15. Open enrollment ends Jan. 31.

Enrollment in Apple Health is open all year.

For information, go to the Healthplanfinder website.

Fewer insurers offering exchange plans in Kitsap

clinic2_26273003_ver1-0_640_480Kitsap residents shopping for 2017 coverage through Healthplanfinder will have four insurers to choose from.

BridgeSpan Health Company, Group Health Cooperative, LifeWise Health Plan of Washington and Premera Blue Cross were approved to offer plans in Kitsap through the state exchange, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Regence Blue Shield and United HealthCare, which offered exchange plans in Kitsap in 2016, aren’t selling exchange plans in the county for 2017. United HealthCare dropped out of the state exchange entirely.

Three carriers — Group Health Cooperative, Group Health Options and Regence Blue Shield — are offering individual health plans in Kitsap outside of the exchange.

Here’s a breakdown:

Statewide, rates for plans sold in the individual market will increase by an average of 13.6 percent for 2017.

Insurers selling in Kitsap will raise rates by an average of 15.13 percent:

Open enrollment for the individual health insurance market starts Nov. 1, 2016 and runs through January 2017.

Enrollment in Apple Health (Medicaid) is open all year.

Click here for enrollment info.

43,000 Kitsap residents enrolled in Medicaid

apple.healthRoughly one in six Kitsap County residents are now enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, called Apple Health.

A total of 43,833 people living in the county have signed up for Apple Health, according to a Tuesday report from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Kitsap ranked 10th among Washington counties for Apple Health enrollment.

Another 5,328 residents enrolled in qualified plans offered through the state’s individual health insurance marketplace, ranking eighth among Washington counties.

QHPStatewide, 1.52 million residents have enrolled in Apple Health and 169,000 purchased qualified health plans, according to the report.

The report highlighted statistics from the insurance marketplace’s most recent open enrollment period, which ended Jan. 31. Enrollment in Apple Health continues year-round.

Kitsap County’s uninsured rate fell steeply after the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. Kitsap had the smallest percentage of uninsured residents in the state in 2014.

You can read the full enrollment report here. 

Harrison sees big increase in ER visits

Harrison Medical Center has seen a steep increase in ER visits at a time when hospitals are working to reduce patients’ dependence on emergency care.

The number of visits to Harrison’s emergency departments in Bremerton and Silverdale jumped from 67,965 in fiscal year 2014 to 79,950 in fiscal year 2015, an change of nearly 18 percent.

(Harrison’s fiscal year runs July through June.)

The Harrison ERs remained busy in the second half of 2015, receiving another 39,468 visits.

The increase in emergency department use was somewhat surprising given Harrison’s recent success in reducing preventable ER visits. 

It was also hoped the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid would lower emergency department dependence, as more residents gained access to primary and specialty care. Only 5.6 percent of Kitsap residents lacked health insurance in 2014.

So why are ER visits still climbing at Harrison?

The hospital noted three possible factors in an email this week: 

I haven’t seen figures for how many emergency visits the Naval hospital received before the conversion, but the facility serves a large population. About 29,000 active-duty service members, retirees and their families are enrolled at the hospital.

  • There’s a shortage of primary care providers in Kitsap. Even as residents gain health coverage, they may still struggle to access care.

Harrison is launching a residency program over the next few years with the hopes of injecting more young doctors into Kitsap’s medical community.

Green light for KPS Health Plans merger

kps_mug_28042940_ver1.0_640_480Regulators have approved KPS Health Plans’ merger into Group Health Options. 

The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner signed off on the move last fall.

The Federal Office of Personnel Management gave its blessing in December, according to a Group Health spokeswoman.

KPS Health Plans, which is based in Bremerton and owned by Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative, will fade out of existence in the coming year.

KPS’ operations are being rolled into Group Health Options, another Group Health subsidiary that offers preferred provider plans.

In an interview last month KPS President Jim Page, now a vice president with Group Health Options, said it hadn’t been determined whether a Bremerton office would be maintained after the merger.

Group Health owns the KPS building at the corner of Fourth Street and Warren Avenue. The building is listed for sale for $5.3 million.

KPS Health Plans served about 20,000 members at the end of 2015. A large majority were federal employees. Page said those members won’t see any changes to their plans in 2016, but they will have the option of using Group Health providers if they want to.

KPS has posted a FAQ and video more details for members.

You can read our December story with more background on the move here.

Exchange will offer 107 health plans in Kitsap

Kitsap residents using the state exchange to shop for health insurance for 2016 will have far more options this year.

Consumers in Kitsap will have their choice of 107 plans offered by six carriers when enrollment opens Sunday, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. That’s a big jump from the 67 available for 2015. 

The increase was largely due to two major carriers, Regence BlueShield and United Healthcare, entering the market for the first time. Regence and United will offer a combined 52 plans through Healthplanfinder.

Moda Health, which sold plans in all counties in 2015, has dropped out of the exchange. 

About 5,000 Kitsap residents were enrolled in qualified health plans purchased through Healthplanfinder in 2015. Another 42,000 were enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program. (See a detailed enrollment report here.)

Statewide, 143 individual plans will be offered through the health exchange for 2016, and 67 will be available outside the exchange. Rates increased an average of 3.9 percent from 2015.

Local navigators are available to help consumers wade through the enrollment process, or determine whether they’re eligible for free health care. See the Kitsap Public Health District website for more information.

The district is holding a special enrollment event Saturday at Kitsap Mall.

Exchange plan enrollment is open from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. Medicaid (Apple Health) enrollment is open all year.

Harrison reaches agreement with First Choice Health

674094_5539855_ver1.0_640_480-1An agreement has been reached that will keep Harrison Medical Center “in-network” for First Choice Health customers.

The hospital and insurance carrier announced a three-year contract extension on Sept. 28.

“We are extremely pleased that we have been able to come to an agreement with First Choice Health on a new contract,” Harrison President David Schultz said in a news release. “This contract allows our patients to have uninterrupted access to all the providers and services Harrison Medical Center has to offer and enhances the financial stability of both organizations.”

Negotiations had hit a sticking point late last summer, with the contract set to terminate Sept. 1. A temporary extension gave the two sides an additional month to negotiate.

About 1,300 Harrison patients are covered by First Choice.

First Choice/Harrison deadline extended

674094_5539855_ver1.0_640_480-1We can pass along some hopeful news for West Sound residents covered by First Choice Health plans.

The contract between the health insurance carrier and Harrison Medical Center has been extended to Sept. 30, according to Scott Thompson, spokesman for Harrison parent company CHI Franciscan Health.

The contract between First Choice and Harrison was set to terminate on Sept. 1 if a new deal couldn’t be reached this month.

Thompson said the temporary extension will allow the sides more time to negotiate.

“It’s a good sign, from our perspective, that we want to keep talking,” he said.

Thompson said records indicate more than 1,300 patients would be affected if the First Choice contract did terminate.

The contract applies only to Harrison’s hospital facilities. Harrison HealthPartners providers and clinics are covered under a separate contract with First Choice, and would remain in-network if the contract terminated. CHI Franciscan facilities would also remain in-network.

This post was updated with additional information from Thompson.

First Choice Health could drop Harrison hospital

674094_5539855_ver1.0_640_480-1Harrison Medical Center will fall out of network with insurer First Choice Health if the two sides can’t agree on a new contract by Sept. 1.

Bob Hinman, First Choice vice president for network management, said contract negotiations with Harrison have reached an impasse.

First Choice believes reimbursement rates Harrison receives under the current contract are unfairly high, Hinman said. He was hopeful talks would continue.

“I think that’s everyone’s hope we could come to agreement on appropriate terms,” he said.

Hinman said First Choice has roughly 3,000 customers in Harrison’s market, and has included the hospital in its network since the 1990s.

The insurer sent a notice to clients warning them the contract with Harrison may terminate in September. If Harrison is dropped from the provider network, First Choice customers will have to pay much higher out-of-pocket costs to access services at the hospital.

The contract in jeopardy only covers Harrison Medical Center. Harrison HealthPartners physicians have a separate contract with First Choice, Hinman said.

Representatives of CHI Franciscan Health, Harrison’s parent company, remained confident an agreement would be reached.

“We are in active contract discussions with First Choice Health and anticipate to have a resolution before the September 1 deadline,” CHI Franciscan spokesman Shawn Jennison said in a statement.

Harrison has had rocky relations with insurance carriers over the past few years. A contract between the hospital and UnitedHealthcare terminated in December 2013. Harrison rejoined United’s network in April 2015.

Harrison and Regence BlueShield failed to renew a contract in August 2014, prompting widespread outcry among Kitsap customers. Regence and Harrison signed a new agreement in February 2015. 

First Choice Health is a Seattle-based health care company owned by physicians and hospitals.

If you have insurance through First Choice I would love to hear from you. Drop me an email at tad.sooter@kitsapsun.com or leave a comment below.

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Millions of Premera customers affected by cyber attack

Hackers broke into Premera Blue Cross computer systems, potentially accessing personal information for 11 million customers, including 6 million in Washington State.

According to Premera, the initial cyber attack occurred nearly a year ago, in May of 2014. Premera discovered the attack on Jan. 29. The company informed the FBI and is coordinating its investigation with the bureau.

Premera announced the security breach to the public Tuesday and created a website with information for customers.

The carrier has begun mailing out letters to affected customers and is offering them two free years of credit monitoring and identity protection services.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler posted a response to the announcement Tuesday, saying he was concerned about the amount of time it took Premera to report the breach to his office.

The full announcement from Premera is posted below:  Continue reading